Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

On Some Proceedings for Rationally Forming Characters. US Utopian Communities 1825-45 and the Advent of Social Engineering

Internal colloquium, open to members of the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr)

Dr. Jacob Birken (Universität zu Köln / Hochschule Düsseldorf)

Virtual Meeting

In the mid-19th century, utopian communities seem an oddly commonplace endeavor in the United States. While two large waves of foundings in the 1820ies and 1840ies follow the ideas of pre-Marxist social thinkers Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, equally radical Christian sects established in the 18th century continue to thrive – or at least survive – throughout the decades. Both secular and religious communities emerge against a very specific historical set of conditions: While their ideas & tenets remain imports from Europe, the genuinely experimental concept of the US state & society and the colonial myth of ‘empty’ land seem to provide the necessary conditions for very different utopian projects.

In my presentation, I want to suggest a supplemental utopian/dystopian ‘trajectory’ for these developments – the normative and socio spatial project of the industrial-age factory, and the origins of social engineering in the complex and contradictory history of 19th century religious, secular and industrial notions of ‘human’ progress.

The KWI Colloquium provides a platform to present and discuss ongoing as well as emerging research projects. It does not solely address research projects from within the KWI, but is also open to guest lectures which tie in with the KWI’s research agenda.

Internal colloquium, open to members of the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr).